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Chapter Twenty-one
THE ART OF GETTING OUT OF POWER

THERE is an art of rising to power and an art of getting out of it,
and it is of the second that Su was a master. Today the spectacfe3
of Su Tungpo, not chasing after politics but chased by it, is rather
amusing. It was not so surprising that he failed politically when Wang
Anshih was in power; it was much more surprising that he "failed"
when his own party was in. Su Tungpo never made a good party man,
for he had too high a stature as a man. With his own party in power,
himself enjoying prestige and popularity, and with the Empress herself
among his personal admirers, he nevertheless managed to lose a much-
envied and coveted political position. He did not succeed at once, but
anyone who knew Su Tungpo's temperament could tell that he woufiP
not stay in politics for long. The first law of the art of delaying old age
and prolonging youth was the avoidance of all emotional disturbances,
and Su Tungpo was now having plenty of emotional disturbances in
the "village of scoundrels", as he called the official world. The game of
politics is fine for those who love it; to others not interested in ruling
other men, the loss in human dignity is hardly worth the gain in power
and tinsel glamour. Su Tungpo's heart was never in the game o$
politics. What he deplorably lacked was determination to get on and
rise to premiership, as he easily could have done if he had been-
differently inclined. As secretary to the Emperor—that is, really to $m
Empress—he enjoyed the intimacy o£ the imperial household, and if
he had cared to play the game, there was no question that he had
enough intelligence to play it well. But to do so would have been to
do violence to his own nature.

The governmental system of the Sung dynasty was particularly
adapted to the struggle for power by politicians. Power was purposely
concentrated in the hand of the Emperor. Even after the complete re-
organisation and simplification of die governmental system in 1078,
there was still no post for a premier with undivided responsibility.
There was no well-defined principle of joint responsibility for a cabinet,
so that the premier and his cabinet could act as a unit. Neither wef£*
there, as I have pointed out previously, well-defined responsibilities and
privileges for the ruling party and the opposition. The mechanics of a
government by the majority party were not there. So, even more than
in the West, the game of politics was essentially a fight of personalities.
But the rules of politics are similar enough in the East and West. It is
a system designed to ensure the rise of mediocrity to the top; There
are certain rules of the game, played chiefly behind the scenes. The
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